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Annual giving during the COVID-19 crisis: An update and resources

Since my last blog post, my GG+A colleagues and I have been keeping a keen watch on developments in philanthropy during this unfolding crisis.

We now have hard evidence, from our survey of 613 organizations, around the impact of COVID-19 on Development operations:

• Most respondents continue to predict a very substantial negative impact to fundraising over the next 30 and 60 days, though sentiment has improved slightly over last week.

• Organizations appear to be growing more comfortable with virtual interaction with donors—61% have transitioned some or all donor meetings to remote platforms, and 25% say they have moved some or all events to virtual events.

• Half of respondents are reporting hiring freezes and/or budget cuts and controls, though salary cuts, furloughs, and layoffs are not widespread.

Amidst all this, there is also good news. People want to hear from you, and sensitive outreach is being rewarded. Here is what you’re sharing:

We sent an email to all alumni and donors letting them know we care and what the university is doing in response to the pandemic. We got wonderful feedback – it was our most opened email ever, fewest unsubscribes, and received some beautiful notes.

“We decided to still have our annual Giving Day, but changed the focus to only student emergency fund and raised over $100,000 – a massive increase over last year.”

“Our planned giving team sent an email to our Giving Society members letting them know we are thinking of them, and wanted to help keep them busy and entertained at home with a book from our University Press. They could choose from five titles of different genres. The gesture was very well-received and we had a great response – almost 300 requested books! The mailing will include a postcard from the Foundation sending them well wishes.”

Contact my colleagues at SurveyLab@grenzglier.com if you would like to be part of our panel. We will be continuing to push out a survey every week as the crisis unfolds.

Some useful resources for you

Here is a round-up of some valuable articles and resources I’ve seen over the past couple of weeks:

1. In your appeals, should you be talking about ‘COVID-19’ or ‘Coronavirus’? According to Mark Phillips from Bluefrog Fundraising, it should definitely be the latter. He’s been monitoring usage of the two terms, and detailed the results in this blog post.

2. Also by Mark, this podcast is a must-listen. In it, he discusses the qualitative research his colleague Amber Nathan has been undertaking with U.K. charity donors. The big takeaway? Donors want to help, but they’re feeling as if they aren’t being asked. “Not a single donor had felt they had been directly asked to support work to tackle Coronavirus, though younger donors had seen appeals on social media, Mark says.

3. If you are suddenly doing a lot more work with email fundraising, it might be useful to have some benchmarks to guide your projections. The M+R Online benchmarks are the most comprehensive available. You can download a copy of the 2019 report here.

4. Digital fundraising agency NextAfter has always done a great job of posting up the results of its digital fundraising testing. Now they have created an interactive dashboard of 150+ nonprofits’ emails.  You can use it to track trends, and see actual email content, by your chosen vertical.

I hope these resources are useful for you as we continue to fundraise in this ever-changing environment. And as I said in my last post, keep being brave, and keep offering donors opportunities to give.

Adrian’s annual giving counsel is available to your organization as part of GG+A’s new Virtual Resources for Advancement Professionals offering, which you can read more about here.

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About the author

Adrian Salmon

Vice President

Adrian Salmon, Vice President, GG+A Europe, brings 20 years of direct-marketing fundraising experience in the higher education, arts and culture, and wider nonprofit spheres. His particular expertise includes direct mail fundraising, annual giving program management, and management of contributions from integrated mail and online appeals.Before joining GG+A in 2015, Adrian…